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Opinion: London's West End Christmas windows reviewed by Michael Sheridan

Welcome to Christmas, the most crucial trading period for pretty much any retailer in the northern hemisphere.

A tour of London’s finest shopping streets reveals that this year VM is not just all white lights and gold boxes. Although, to be fair, the classic Christmas look is still adopted by many, and none is better at exploiting a classic theme than Harrods: ‘Once Upon a Christmas’ is the very embodiment of festive spirit, acted out as a series of puppet cameos through the Knightsbridge windows.

A number of stores have adopted a ‘home’ environment to literally make their customers feel ‘homely comfort’. Ralph Lauren has had this home feel for as long as I can remember and more recently brands like Paul Smith have taken the direction. So no surprises that Christmas is based on traditional times in these salon-type stores.

The streets I visited pretty much covered Knightsbridge, via Oxford Street, Bond Street and Regent Street. About one store in three has made a real effort with their windows. Of these, about half take the theme through into their store too.

Of the remainder, more than half have done nothing, perhaps relying on the street lights to set the theme. A few have simply added vinyl snow and messaging. Whistles says Ho Ho Ho, Reiss reminds us ‘These are the good times’ and Kurt Geiger appeals to ‘Santa Baby.’ I did like its life-size legs out of the bag and Barbie Doll figures.  

To my mind the themes that focus on doing simple thing well work the best. So in stalwart department stores Fortnum and Mason and Liberty, although both stores have strong Christmas themes, the displays feel diluted through being overcrowded with too much random product.

Anyone who has travelled to the US at this time of the year will have seen the full-on decoration that festoons private houses, often including an array of illuminated figurines in their gardens. Worryingly I spotted a few of these on my tour but it wasn’t until I got to Berkeley Square that I found one -  actually two - I liked. The Panthers in the window of the Mount Street Printers and Stationers look amazing.

I like contemporary. And while some may say ‘overloading’ is a poor excuse for imagination I really liked Dior’s multi-coloured bauble windows.

Fendi’s light bulbs draw you in and the message inside is worth searching for.

Best of the neon lights was John Smedley.

Hermes strip wood figurines look fantastic and Linda Farrows golden bears are keeping it fun. But I felt I was looking for something more and finally found it at Coach. Splendid oversized baubles morphed with peacock – great idea, looks fab. And, whether by luck or judgment, it is the only display that reflects the Bond Street lights and their massive white illuminate peacock feathers.

On a large scale, Selfridges’ nod to the constellations is brilliantly executed - though its corner window feature, a mobilised constellation, isn’t so magical and looks a bit too much like the internal workings of a Dyson.

Harvey Nichols certainly takes the prize for originality. Visually the displays are very striking and different from anything else I have seen this season. Its theme of #GiftFace seamlessly links through Twitter and other social media channels.

Whether classic or contemporary, as ever it is all in the execution and the devil, as ever, is in the detail.

Michael Sheridan is chief executive of Sheridan and Co